Zimbabwe: Anthrax Outbreak Hits Chipinge

19 October 2020

At least two persons were last week admitted with anthrax related symptoms in Chipinge, prompting officials to dispatch a rapid response team to vaccinate local livestock.

According to sources the outbreak is now reportedly posing a threat to human life as there are suspicions that local butcheries are also stocking the infected beef for resale.

Hunger stricken locals have also been consuming beef from ailing cattle, while others are finishing off the beasts and feasting on them.

Provincial Development Coordinator Edgars Seenza, who heads the provincial CPU confirmed the outbreak as well hospitalization of the duo, who were exposed to infected beef.

"We have received those reports from our local structures and we have since responded as the Civil Protection Unit and dispatched a team which is now on the ground.

"The suspicions were raised from two patients who got sick and were admitted at St Peters Hospital with anthrax-like symptoms, but these were treated and discharged," said Seenza.

"The situation is now under control, we responded quickly to educate our people and vaccinate because that area is already under constant surveillance," he added.

Seenza said the situation was now under control as the CPU is working closely with local structures and the veterinary department to identify hotspots.

The Division of Veterinary Services in the Ministry of Agriculture has since dispatched a rapid response team to deal with the outbreak which has reportedly claimed dozens of cattle herd in Chipinge rural.

The outbreak is in Chibuwe, Dakate, Zamuchiya and Chisumbanje where at least fifteen cattle have perished according to the Manicaland Civil Protection Unit, in areas close to wildlife conservancies.

Councillor Charles Mugidho (Ward 20) initially raised alarm through a distress call that villagers were consuming anthrax infected beef urging authorities to intervene urgently to a serious health risk posed to oblivious villagers.

Acting Director Division of Veterinary Services, Dr Felistas Ndhlovu said infected animals die within a few days, while for humans it can also be fatal but if diagnosed in time it can be treated.

Dr Ndhlovu said Chipinge district is a designated anthrax zone where the movement of cattle is prohibited and receives annual vaccination for livestock to curb the spread of diseases.

She said the current vaccination exercise, which was now due, is targeting 87 000 herds of cattle up from 14 000 vaccinated last year in October to curb the spread of anthrax to outlying areas.

"We are vaccinating against the disease in these areas, which is a gazetted anthrax zone and there is an annual vaccination plan, which was due as the last was in October last year.

"Our challenge is that people fail to bring their cattle for one reason or the other, these difficulties in failing to round up all local cattle means that there are gaps in our annual vaccinations.

"We usually make retrospective responses after persons who consume meat from the dead cattle develops symptoms of anthrax. Late reporting is our key problem," she said.

Anthrax is a highly infectious and fatal disease to mammals which can be passed on to humans, and the Division of Veterinary Services categorize it together with rabies, as diseases of public health importance.

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